Book Review: Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland by Beau Riffenburgh

Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland by Beau Riffenburgh is an intriguing exploration of the legendary Pinkerton detective who took down the Molly Maguires and the Wild Bunch. The operatives of the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency were renowned for their skills of subterfuge, infiltration, and investigation. This is particularly true of McParland. So thrilling were McParland’s cases that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included the cunning detective in a story along with Sherlock Holmes. There are many conflicting accounts of McPharland's life, and this book looks at the likelihood of what is true in light of the variety of stories and known facts about his life and times.

Pinkerton's Great Detective is the result of Riffenburgh digging into the recently released Pinkerton archives. Colorful narratives and a sharp look at the conflicting stories are combined to give interested readers the first biography of McParland and the agency’s cloak-and-dagger methods. There are a lot of theories and story explored within the research and suppositions of Riffenburgh. The result of the meticulous research makes for a dense but very interesting read. I was intrigued by the life and mysterious portrayed, but had to put the book down a few times to read something of a less dense nature. There are just so many stories about McParland, some perfectly possible and others completely impossible, that Riffenburgh had a huge amount of ground to cover and make accessible to interested parties. I think the result is well done, thoroughly researched and vetted, and an interesting read.

Pinkerton's Great Detective is an educational and interesting read for anyone interested in real detectives and the evolution of cloak and dagger detecting in the early days of the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency. With the re-surging interest in Sherlock Holmes, I think that Riffenburgh will find an eager audience of individuals interested in one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's inspirations.

Post a Comment